Posts Tagged ‘ mindfulness ’

picturing REFLECTION


If you are like me, you might have cringed when you noticed that this is a picture of Christmas ribbon that I snapped when I was decorating (yes, decorating) over the weekend. Is it really that time of the year already? Are people seriously decorating before December? I did wait until after Thanksgiving, though some of my neighbors decked out their houses immediately following Halloween. Are the stores really open on Thanksgiving this year?

The truth, however, is that the holidays have officially begun. Whether we like it or not. We kick off the season with Thanksgiving, offering gratitude for all of the good in our lives — friends and family, health, meaningful work, shelter and food (oh, so much food…). Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa follow with a time to celebrate and share the light in our lives. The grand finale is New Year’s, providing a time for hopeful dreaming for the future.

Every year, the holidays sort of sneak up on me. Mostly, I go into avoidance mode. I tell myself that I’ll really celebrate once the semester is over, the holiday shopping is done, or I’ve trekked up to our families in Minnesota. Unfortunately, more so than not, I am left feeling a bit empty. Feeling like I somehow missed seeing the extra in the ordinary. Feeling like I missed a special moment to savor the sacred. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly eat enough food and I certainly spend enough money, but I often can’t help but feel like something was lost. This year, I’m trying to find some balance in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Some peace while enjoying the special moments.

At the outset, I’m taking some time to personally reflect on what I want this season. I’m asking myself what will help me remain mindful of the magic. In a season that is full of excess, we sometimes need to make a list to focus on the bare essentials and purposeful excess (excess that we purposefully engage in and truly enjoy) to deeply experience the season. I’ve begun making a list and here’s what’s on it.

1) I love watching the Christmas specials, especially the animated ones, but because they are shown early, I almost always end up missing them. I’ve looked up the dates and times for my favorites.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas ABC Nov 30, 7:00 PM

Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer CBS Nov 30, 7:00PM

It’s A Wonderful Life NBC Nov 30, 8:00 PM

A Charlie Brown Christmas ABC Dec 7, 7:00PM

Frosty the Snowman CBS Dec 11, 7:00 PM

2) I developed a new ritual for holiday shopping. I decided to do all of my Christmas shopping online. Shopping in stores around the holidays is stressful. I popped in a Christmas CD one evening, gave thanks for having a little extra money to show my appreciation for my family and friends, and peacefully ordered gifts from the quietness of my laptop.

3) Cut down on my blog posts. I’ll still be taking 1 photo each day, but I’ll only be updating my blog 1-2 times per week. I enjoy taking the pictures, but sometimes feel like updating my blog is just one more thing that I have to do. I hope to take some time to reflect on what my blog is and what I want it to be.

4) I’m filling several boxes of things — clothes, shoes, food — for charity. It is a time to give to others who are need.

5) I planned a special weekend with my mom to bake my favorite Christmas cookies.

6) I’m going to listen to some of my favorite Christmas tunes each night while I drink a special beverage.

None of these things are extraordinary. I think I’ll find more joy in the season by focusing on the extra meaning in my ordinary actions, like baking and watching television. Do you have any additional suggestions for me to ponder? What do YOU need to make this season meaningful?


picturing FOCUS

When things in my life go to all hell, and I'm ruminating about the past or worrying about the future, I find serenity by focusing. Focusing on this day, this moment. And everything in the front or back of me blurs into the background.

picturing BEGINNINGS


be.gin.ner (noun) – a person who is new to or inexperienced in a certain task, situation.

It’s been a long time since I let myself be a beginner at anything. Don’t get me wrong. I love trying new things: traveling to new places, learning new skills, taking on new challenges. Beginnings make me feel energized, hopeful, alive. However, being a beginner — new to or inexperienced at anything — makes me a bit (by which I mean, very) uncomfortable. And this has certainly been the case with both photography and blogging.

I’ve been thinking about starting a photoblog for a while now. Well, wait. Let me start at the beginning. For the past year, I’ve been trying to create balance in my life by intentionally finding time each day to work, play, and rest. One of the ways I created time for play was by enrolling in a 9-week photography class. In the course, we completed a series of technical exercises (e.g., hyperfocal focus, shallow depth of field), in which we shot the equivalent of a roll of film (all of us were using digital SLRs) — 36 photos — each week. We then printed our photos with no corrections and presented our 8 “best” to the class. The photography class was a lot of things — it was a great place to connect with a photography community in Lincoln, it was an excellent resource for learning how to use my new Canon EOS Rebel t2i, and it helped me to begin to figure out what my own unique photo style might be. But, more than anything…it was just plain FUN! I loved taking, printing, and sharing my pictures.

When I asked, what next? My soul whispered…hmm…a photoblog might be kind of fun. I’ve found that if I even take a small step toward creativity — acknowledging a small creative dream, for example — the universe often responds with a little prompting of its own. In this case, my creative sister-in-law, Brady Gervais, writer, runner, and non-profit extraordinaire, mentioned in passing that maybe I should start a Photoblog.  My spirit entertained the possibility for about 2 seconds, but then my beginner’s doubts crept in.

You are not a good enough. No one’s going to want to look at your photographs or read your thoughts about photography, my inner perfectionist said.

You don’t have enough time to start a blog, (especially if you want to get tenure), my inner workaholic chimed in.

Anything you create won’t be original — there are other people in your life who have been doing this a lot longer. There’s no room for another photographer and if you try, you’re going to look like a fool, my impatient social comparison fiend added.

Yet, I wondered, what if. What if I embrace my beginner’s status? What if everything didn’t have to be perfect? What if I committed only small chunks of time each day? What if I could connect with other like-minded people at all stages of their creative journey and we could help each other?

I keep coming back to the fact that taking and sharing my pictures makes me more mindful. When I’m taking pictures, I’m in the moment. I’m not thinking of the dishes that need to be done or the manuscript that needs to be submitted. It gives me perspective. Most of my favorite photos are of ordinary objects that picture an extraordinary meaning to me because of their fresh perspectives. Finally, I’m finding creative communion, by sharing my photography and creativity with fellow creative spirits.

So, where do we go from here? I will be sharing one of my photographs each day and one longer blog post each week. Most of the photos will be new (i.e., taken that day), but I will also revisit some older ones because, as my photographer teachers says, sometimes you need to sit with a photograph for a while as it reveals its many layers. Most importantly, I will be embracing my beginner status. I’m giving myself permission to be a beginner in every regard — I don’t have to have it all figured out yet, I will make mistakes (probably some big ones), I can try new things simply because it sounds like a little fun. I already see curves in the road ahead, but I’m going to focus on each step, each moment, each day and have faith that the path will be presented to me.